Open Ocean Presents Considerable Opportunity For Offshore Wind Energy Generation

MARIE HEUCLIN via Getty Images

MARIE HEUCLIN via Getty Images

Scientists analyzed the feasibility and advantages of building wind farms in the North Atlantic.

Most of the energy captured by large wind farms originate higher up in the atmosphere and is transported down to the surface where the turbines may extract this energy. For the regions the researchers looked at specifically, the wind speed rates were on average 70 percent higher than the wind speed rates on land were. Also, it is revealed that floating wind turbines at sea could create up to three times as much electricity as turbines present on land because on the sea the turbines do not face "wind shadow" effect. Because of this, a team of researchers set out and established that wind farms located in the North Atlantic might actually be capable of powering the entire planet. The study is based on computer models that compared the productivity of large Kansas wind farms to imagined, massive wind farms erected in the open seas. The authors point to other research which has concluded that the maximum rate of electricity generation for land-based wind farms is limited by the rate at which the energy is moved down towards the ground from high up in the atmosphere.

But extracting efficient energy from wind involves more than putting turbines in the path of gale-force winds.

As a result, more energy is drawn from the atmosphere than over land, which helps to combat the problem of turbine drag.

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"Despite the strong seasonally varying geophysical limit imposed by the atmosphere, we still find that even the smallest wind farm considered in this study would generate sufficient electric power to meet the demand of the European Union in 2015 for 10 out of 12 months of the year", the paper says. This contrast in surface warming along the USA coast drives the frequent generation of cyclones or low-pressure systems, that cross the Atlantic and are very efficient in drawing the upper atmosphere's energy down to the height of the turbines.

Possner said: "We found that giant ocean-based windfarms are able to tap into the energy of the winds throughout much of the atmosphere, whereas windfarms onshore remain constrained by the near-surface wind resources".

"Although no commercial-scale deep water wind farms yet exist, our results suggest that such technologies, if they became technically and economically feasible, could potentially provide civilization-scale power", they write. That means, on an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world.

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